2016-12-24 Christmas Eve Candle Light Service

December 24, 2016

I spent some time last week reflecting on what does God expect from me? He showed me to be faithful and to be obedient to his Word. I realized that this answer is the same as it was 2,000 years ago when Mary and Joseph most likely asked the Lord the same question.

As I pondered Mary’s call to obey the Lord I looked at her calling from God. Luke 1:28-35 (NIV) 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”

What would people think when they noticed that she was pregnant? What would her parents and family think when they observed her beginning to show the baby bump? We don’t’ know what all went through Mary’s mind when the angel delivered the message from God. What we know is her response. Luke 1:38 (NIV) 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.” Mary had to trust God and do her best to ignore the gossip.

Mary did go and visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was also expecting a child. (John the Baptist) Elizabeth was supportive of Mary as the Lord spoke to her through the Holy Spirit. Luke 1:56 (NIV) 56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.”

It was probably not long after Mary returned that talk began to spread about Mary’s increasingly obvious signs of pregnancy that Joseph, her betrothed, became aware of the situation. What was he to do since he wanted to honor God by doing the right thing? Matthew 1:19-21 (NIV) 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

One cannot hide in a small town. People would have noticed and started gossiping and making fun of Mary and of Joseph. Joseph also had to trust God. After hearing from the angel Joseph acted in faith. Matthew 1:24-25 (NIV) 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.”

It would not have been easy for either of them living in a small town. So little has changed! People still make fun of Christians who dare to live their lives obeying the commands of God. Christians are often mocked and ridiculed and at time persecuted for their faith. Obedience comes with a cost. Many people will not understand!

Yet obedience to the LORD leads to joy and awe. Luke 2:10-14, 20 (NIV) 10 But the angel said to them(shepherds), “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” “20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

I am sure that Joseph and Mary often talked about the night the shepherds came and told of the angels singing praises. We often reflect on what God is doing in our lives. We know Mary did. Luke 2:19 (NIV) “19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” It is often later as time passes that we are sometimes able to see what God was doing. Peter reflected on his life with Christ and wrote this. 1 Peter 1:8-9 (NIV) 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Following Jesus requires obedience, which leads to joy and peace. May the joy and peace of Christ be with you this Christmas!

Let us pray.